Siobhan returns from Ethiopian visit
A DONABATE aid agency worker has returned from a five-day visit to Ethiopia where she witnessed first hand the work that is being carried out on the ground.
Siobhán O'Connor works for Concern Worldwide, where she coordinates the challenges and treks that the agency organises.
The original plan had been for the Concern fundraisers to take part in last weekend's Great Ethiopian Run but some days before the run the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and a number of other western embassies advised their citizens to avoid the race because of security worries that had come to their attention.
Concern always gives security priority so it was decided that the fundraisers would not take part in the Great Ethiopian Run, which attracts up to 37,000 people every year.
'It meant that the Concern group had everything planned, fares paid and were set to go. It was impossible not to go ahead with the trip so instead we quickly arranged a 10k run for the 10 of us carrying the Concern flag.
'We visited Concern programmes in Addis Ababa. It was my first time in Africa and my first time to visit a Concern programme overseas .
'We visited a training and vocational centre run by Concern. People are trained in skills. The courses run three days a week for three to four months. It means people can also hold down jobs while doing the courses.
'We also visited a HIV & AIDS centre where people receive medical attention and are also given counselling sessions. I spoke to some of the people and they all agreed that the counselling was of great benefit. The Ethiopian government is taking over this programme, which means Concern will be moving on to other work. And that too impressed me, how Concern sets up programmes, which flourish and thrive, eventually allowing Concern to move on to other work. Our 10 kilometre run took place in Awassa, which is about 250 kilometres south of Addis. At one point two little girls ran up to me as I was running and held my hands and ran along behind me,' Siobhán smiles.
Before coming to Concern Siobhán worked with GFD Promotions, where she coordinated Irish music and dance shows abroad. And she herself has danced all over the world. Siobhan's mother, Carmel Hayes, was also a dancer and an All-Ireland dancing champion.
Siobhán, who is a past pupil of Manor House in Raheny and studied Management and Marketing at DIT in Aungier Street, joined Concern just over five months ago.
All the money raised by the group will be spent on Concern projects in Ethiopia. This year Concern is spending €5.4 million in Ethiopia and employs 188 people in the country all of whom but two are Ethiopian.